I forgot how much I love a NO BAKE recipe! No heating up the kitchen and practically instant gratification! The only problem with these chocolate-peanut butter-oat bars is that they are so tasty and satisfying, I kind of can’t resist them. So after I made this batch, I gave them all to my sister-in-law and she and her family flipped for them!!Continue reading
I am a nut butter addict. I would be so skinny if nut butter didn’t exist! I love them all — almond, cashew, hazelnut, pecan, mixed nuts and my childhood favorite, peanut. Yes, yes, yes, I know peanuts are not actually nuts, but legumes. And I know peanuts are less healthy than other nuts and that you must buy organic because they are heavily sprayed. But I love the roasted nutty flavor of peanut butter and a little goes a long way. I actually eat peanut butter pretty sparingly, but when I do, I convince myself that it has a lot of protein (which it does) and I try to eat it with other things, rather than off the spoon as I was apt to do in college and during my three pregnancies.
I also love my homemade granola recipe. Granola + yogurt + fresh fruit is my go-to breakfast when I’m running late, or haven’t prepared anything else in advance. I actually never get tired of it. If I don’t post my breakfast on Instagram on a particular day (like Monday,) it’s because I’m probably having a granola-yogurt parfait.
Last spring I decided I needed to spice up my life a little, so I went out on a limb and decided to make my granola recipe with peanut butter. Oh yeah, I am a risk-taker if you don’t know that by now! Well, let’s just say I became super obsessed with this peanut butter version and my kids went crazy for it, too. Truth be told, I think they were starting to get bored with my standard granola which I have been making the same way for at least 15 years. I need everyone in this house to be into granola — with yogurt or almond milk, it’s the easiest, balanced, instant breakfast I’ve got up my sleeve. So this new version was just the thing to get everyone interested again.
The recipe is actually not much different from my original granola. All I did was replace the coconut oil with peanut butter and swap peanuts for almonds and pecans. So it’s still vegan and gluten-free (if you use GF oats, if that’s important to you.) I’ve done lots of different dried fruits with this granola, depending on what I have on hand, but diced dates are my favorite. I still keep this barely sweet so we don’t get any blood sugar spikes first thing in the morning. You’ll test it out and see for yourself if it’s the sweetness that you like. If not, the next go round you’ll add some more syrup.
We eat granola in the obvious parfait, but we also dip bananas in nut butter and sprinkle them with granola, use it to top oatmeal, I have even started making yogurt popsicles with layers of granola inside. I also eat it out of hand when I need a little pick me up in the afternoon the car waiting for Mr. Picky to get off the bus. Zzzzzzzz.
Mother’s Day is on Sunday! Buy those cards and flowers! Make a homemade gift! Bring her breakfast in bed, like peanut butter granola with strawberries and a side of almond milk! Above all, if you are a kid, no bickering with your siblings on Mother’s Day and do something that will pleasantly surprise your mama, like clean your room or the whole house, do the dishes or eat a green vegetable. Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (look for gluten-free oats for a gluten-free granola)
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
½ cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter*, creamy or crunchy, preferably organic
⅓ cup 100% pure maple syrup, Grade A or Grade B
¼ cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup roasted and salted peanuts, preferably organic
1 cup pitted chopped dates (about 8 dates) or other dried, unsulphured fruit
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If your oven runs hot, preheat to 325 degrees.) Line a rimmed baking sheet or cookie sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
In a large bowl stir together the oats, seeds, cinnamon and salt.
In a small saucepan combine the peanut butter, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and vanilla and heat over low, whisking to combine well. It is really important to mix the peanut butter and syrups so that everything is well blended, otherwise the syrups may burn. Add the peanut butter and syrup mixture to the bowl with the oats and stir to coat well.
Transfer the oat mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes (ovens vary), stirring occasionally until golden brown. The mixture will not be crunchy yet. Add the peanuts and dates to the pan and allow to cool. Transfer granola to an airtight container and store at room temperature or freeze.
After I posted these chocolate peanut butter bars on instagram a few months ago, I was harassed, yes harassed! into teaching them in my classes pronto. Of course they look delicious and beautiful and there’s no added sugar, so I can see why there would be interest. But, no one could focus in my cooking classes after that. “The soup looks great, Pamela. But when are you teaching “the bars?”
So I pushed this recipe up on the schedule from February to December and I am even doing something very uncharacteristic — I am posting the recipe before I have finished teaching it. It is the season of giving and I love you all, so here it is.
Are these chocolate peanut butter bars all that? Well, if I do say so myself, they really are. They are incredibly simple to put together and taste like a Reeses peanut butter cup collided with a larabar. But, they’re not terrible for you. You don’t need an oven, but you do need to make them ahead. They’re hard to beat, if you ask me.
The base is a combo of dates and roasted, salted peanuts — chewy with a little texture. The chocolate layer is melted chocolate and peanut butter plus an extra drizzle of peanut butter which gets swirled around into a pretty design like you’re all of a sudden a pastry chef. And did I mention easy to do?
Since there are very few ingredients here, you know what that means. The better the ingredients with which you start, the better the final product. Poor quality peanut butter will give you bars that are not as good as these you see here. I think you’ve seen in one of my Friday Favorites posts that I am very loyal to Santa Cruz Organic peanut butter. It is quite honestly the only one I buy because it is the only one that meets my standards for peanut butter which are these:
organic, since peanuts are very heavily sprayed
in glass, since plastics leach when food is stored in them for long periods of time
no added sugar or salt, since I like to control the types of salt and sweeteners I add to my food
no added hydrogenated oils; can you say “inflammation?” Avoid please.
I love Santa Cruz Organic because they have been in the organic business before organic became a buzz word and a trendy marketing strategy. Their products are also non-GMO and the company supports sustainable resources. They are the real deal and have been since day 1. After they saw my post a few months ago, they reached out and offered to provide me product for my next recipe that involved peanut butter. So sweet! So even though I am always reluctant to do a sponsored post, I accepted this one with a full heart since you know I have been a fan of Santa Cruz both on the blog, in my cooking classes and in my personal kitchen for many years. You can find Santa Cruz products, including the peanut butter, at most Whole Foods store and other natural foods stores. I have been purchasing Santa Cruz peanut butter from thrivemarket.com, which has the best prices. There are four options: Light-Creamy, Light-Crunchy, Dark-Creamy and Dark-Crunchy. For this recipe I prefer the creamy, either light or dark.
The key with achieving perfect swirls here is to make sure the peanut butter is a loose, drizzly consistency, like when you first stir the jar. If it is too thick, it won’t swirl well. Read the recipe for what to do if your peanut butter is too firm. I am going to pan a few pans of these for cookie exchanges and for potlucks this season!
3 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate (approximately a heaping ½ cup)
3 ½ ounces dark chocolate (or use all semi-sweet)
¼ cup creamy or crunchy natural (unsweetened and unsalted) peanut butter, divided
Grease an 8x8 or 9x9-inch glass baking dish with oil or butter and line with unbleached parchment paper.
Place peanuts and dates in the bowl of a food processor and process until completely crumb-like and sticky. Press into the bottom of your baking dish evenly, creating a crust. If mixture is too sticky, use plastic wrap to help spread it out.
Using a double boiler or glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate with 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter and stir until combined and creamy. Pour on top of the peanut/date crust.
Using a small spoon, drizzle (do NOT dollop) the remaining 2 Tablespoons peanut butter over the chocolate, teaspoon by teaspoon, in lines. If your peanut butter is not loose enough to do this, warm over a double boiler to thin it out.
Using the tip of a knife, gently create swirls along the top of the bars. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator 10 minutes before serving. Remove from baking dish and cut into squares. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge.
I don’t know if you cooked a little or a lot for Thanksgiving (or maybe not at all), but were you like me wishing even a little that everyone would eat a bit more slowly? I mean, that’s a lot of cooking just to be inhaled in less than 30 minutes. I whispered to my husband during dinner, “please slow down the pace a little.” And it’s not just Thanksgiving day that I wish wouldn’t fly by. I would have loved to relax and enjoy the weekend a little more. But the holiday energy can be kind of overwhelming. Regardless, I had a really nice few days with my family, including my daughter who was home from college. She actually was my assistant for the KTLA segment on Friday morning. So sweet.
I almost posted these delicious sweet potato muffins last week, but I just couldn’t swing it. Even though I have been making them for years during every season, I just realized that they would be a good vehicle for leftover sweet potato casserole. They would also be delicious for a brunch, breakfast or after school snack. My kids all love them, as does my husband who is not much of a sweet potato guy, but doesn’t seem to notice here. I am a big sweet potato pusher with the family since they are incredibly nutritious. They are so so rich in antioxidants, and so versatile. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed I even eat sweet potatoes for breakfast with a drizzle of almond butter and whatever fruit is in season. Of course, they make great baked fries, are terrific in stews, stir-fried and roasted. I love them.
When I taught these in my breakfast class a few years ago, I made lots of improvisations. The most popular was adding chopped, cooked turkey bacon to the mix! I’m not big on bacon, but it was the most popular variation that month. Smoky, salty bacon is pretty perfect with the sweetness of sweet potatoes and the dried fruit. As you know I am a huge fan of dates, but sometimes I’ll use dried cherries, cranberries (so fall!), raisins, currants, or diced prunes (so underrated!) Once I added the zest of an orange which was a nice change. Otherwise, these are a lightly sweetened, almost dense muffin with fragrant spices and little nuggets of dried fruit and ginger. Heaven.
I think most muffins are best the day they are made, these included. But they also freeze well, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a container or a resealable bag. One variation I haven’t tried yet is to make this into a loaf or in a cake pan and cut into squares. I’ll try that next. But not too soon since apparently I’m already behind on my holiday shopping. Jeez.
2 small sweet potatoes or one medium sweet potato, about ¾ pound total
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
6 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped or ¾ cup dried fruit, like raisins
¼ cup diced crystallized ginger
8 pieces of turkey bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup plain whole yogurt
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (cold or room temp)
½ cup pure maple syrup (Grade A or Grade B) or coconut sugar or sucanat
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast the sweet potato for 1 to 1 ½ hours, depending on their size, until they are tender when pierced with a fork. The bottoms should be dark, even burnt-looking, and the juices beginning to caramelize. Set aside to cool, then peel and leave whole.
Lower the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 –cup muffin tin with unbleached parchment liners.
Combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add chopped dates, ginger and bacon (if using) and mix until coated.
In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and yogurt.
Add the butter and sugar (or maple syrup) to the bowl of a standing mixer. Attach the paddle and mix on high speed until the butter and sugar are light and creamy, about 3 minutes. (If using maple syrup, mixture will be lumpy.)
Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and half of the sweet potato and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute, until thoroughly combined. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
On low speed, so the flour doesn’t go flying everywhere, add the dry ingredients and mix until partly combined. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix until combined. Add the remaining sweet potato and mix until barely combined. You want to see pieces of sweet potato in the mix.
Scoop batter into muffins cups (an ice cream scoop does a good job of this.)
Bake for 35-40 minute or until tops of the muffins spring back when pressed. Take muffins out of tin and place on a rack to cool. Best when served warm.
You know what makes me laugh about Passover? When I was growing up (in a very Italian-Catholic home,) my mother was always quite excited when Passover was imminent because matzoh would hit the shelves in the supermarket. And my grandmother was even more excited. I remember Grandma visiting once during Passover and gifting us 3 boxes of Streit’s matzoh that she received with a coupon at Shop Rite. We didn’t need any matzoh, of course, because my mom had already used a similar coupon at Pathmark and stocked up. But we were happy to have it, because once Passover was over, matzoh would be nowhere to be found.
What’s the point of this story? We actually bought matzoh because we liked it! Who likes matzoh? We did and we ate it with a schmear of Breakstone’s whipped butter, cream cheese or sometimes peanut butter. Now, many years later, I am married to a nice Jewish guy and we observe Passover. We don’t eat any grains or legumes or anything that can leaven for those 8 days. And I buy matzoh because it’s traditional and we use it like we would bread, spreading it with almond butter and jelly or using it to sandwich roasted veggies and goat cheese (that’s for me) or turkey and avocado. I make a veggie “lasagne” with matzoh and a very delicious matzoh brie too (you should check out my recipe for Tex-Mex matzoh brie.)
But let me tell you, I don’t love it. None of us in this house does. But pickings were always slim during Passover, unless one resorted to boxes of cake mix made out of sugar, preservatives and matzoh meal. Fast forward to 2014 when blanched almond flour has become as common as quinoa (which is ok to eat during Passover believe it or not.) So I have been able to enjoy delicious, “normal” baked goods which just happen to be grain-free. Just by using almond flour. Game changer!
A few years ago I posted a recipe for some delicious almond flour muffins with banana, chocolate and chia seeds. I will for sure make a batch or two of those next week, but I will also be making these amazing banana-carrot-coconut muffins. I found this recipe in Andrew Weil’s True Food cookbook and made a few adjustments to make them even more healthful. These muffins are a great cross between carrot cake and banana bread and have a nice, subtle sweetness. I actually make one batch as a 2-layer cake for the seders and spread my vegan frosting in between. I’ll make another batch and freeze them for breakfasts and lunchboxes, since I think these can serve as a meal-in-a-muffin.
Ironically, my mother still buys matzoh, although the options are far more interesting than they used to be including spelt, onion and even gluten-free. For me, I’ll enjoy Passover much more with these muffins!
Author: Pamela, adapted from the True Food Cookbook
2 cups blanched almond flour (not almond meal) I use Honeyville.
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 very ripe bananas*, mashed
2 Tablespoons raw honey
¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) unrefined coconut oil or unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped (or raisins or dried cherries)
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and coconut. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, bananas, melted coconut oil, honey, vanilla and vinegar together, making sure that the oil is well incorporated into the other ingredients.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Fold in the dates, carrots, and walnuts. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. You will fill the cups to the top since these muffins don’t rise very much.
Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown or a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. (Since there is no actual flour, the muffins will not rise significantly.) Cool in the pan or on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out the muffins onto the rack and let cool to warm or room temperature.
*Or substitute ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce + an extra 2 Tablespoons raw honey This recipe calls for blanched almond flour, which is much finer and lighter than almond meal. Bob's Red Mill "almond flour/meal" is not fine enough. You can use almond meal in this recipe, but the results will be heavier and coarser.
Larabars were one of the first snack bars that I remember buying. There are no scary ingredients, no added sugars or colors, just dates and nuts. I liked having them for the kids in my diaper bag, as a snack for the plane when we traveled, and more recently for all-day soccer tournaments in the middle of Taco Bell-land. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I could actually make them in my own kitchen. Without a special Larabar machine! And when I finally realized how disappointingly easy these are to make, I really wanted to hit myself over the head. And I could have been making them organic to boot!
I had so much fun teaching these bars in my classes last month. Once I revealed the secret ratio of dates to nuts (1:1 !), we came up with lots of interesting combinations of ingredients and shapes. The most important ingredient is something sticky to hold it all together. Usually Larabars contain dried dates, which you might remember are one of my obsessions! But I had success making bars out of raisins and dried cherries, too. Are we having fun yet?! Then take your pick of a nut or seed — I use either almonds, cashews, pecans or sunflower seeds. You can make a Larabar with just dates and nuts if you want. Or you can add some yummy things like chocolate, cacao powder, cinnamon, candied ginger, coconut, peppermint extract, instant coffee powder and so on and so forth. Are your wheels spinning?
These are very yummy, but let’s keep it under control and limit ourselves to one for a snack and not the whole delicious batch. After all, you wouldn’t sit down and eat 14 dates just because. I also wouldn’t use these as a meal replacement because they generally have under 200 calories which ain’t enough for anyone. Larabars get bonus points with me because you can make them in approximately 5 minutes and they last for a heck of a long time in the refrigerator or freezer.
I thought it would be great to post this “recipe” now because Easter and Passover are coming up. Larabars are a great Passover snack because there’s nothing not kosher for Passover in them, unless you use peanuts. I think making them in the shape of a traditional Larabar is great, but you can also make little mini squares, or shape them into small, flat discs like a cookie, or a little round ball like a truffle. And then I went to Michael’s and bought lollipop sticks and made…Laralollipops!! How cute would these be for Easter? Dip them in chocolate if you have to! I’ve given three different combinations here, but you can really make up your own according to what you like. Or go over to the official Larabar site and copy some of their flavors. Just don’t tell them I sent you!
1 ¼ cup dried, unsweetened dates (about 14), pitted
1 ¼ cup whole raw almonds, cashews or pecans
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
¼ cup semi-sweet MINI chocolate chips or shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsulphured raisins (or dried cherries for an oatmeal cherry bar)
¾ cup rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
¾ cup raw cashews or pecans
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
The easy way to do this is to place all of the ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a food processor and process until the mixture comes together in a tight ball (about 2 ½ minutes). Everything will be really finely processed. See the lollipop images for what that looks like. Or if you want a little more texture from the nuts, process the nuts and dates separately and mix them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. See the other images for examples of that.
The chocolate chips can be added at the end and mixed in with your hands.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and transfer the ball to the plastic wrap and press down to start to flatten into a rectangle. Fold the excess plastic over the top and use your hands to shape and flatten the mixture until it is about ½” thick, about 9” across and 3” down. Or make whatever shape you want!
Refrigerate for a couple hours until firm and slice as desired. Keep wrapped in the refrigerator. Or transfer unwrapped bars to a tightly sealed container.
You can also do a Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar: 1 ¼ cups pitted dates + 1 cup roasted, salted peanuts. Sometimes I add 2 Tablespoons of Maca powder and a pinch of salt with or without a few mini chocolate chips.
You all know I live in Southern California and perhaps you know we are having a very mild, but super dry winter. We actually have a serious drought happening here. And you might also know that 99% of my entire family lives in the New York/New Jersey area. And they’re having a veerrryy different kind of winter.
So most of our phone calls the last few weeks have been kind of like this:
Me: “Hi! It’s me. What’s new?”
Sister/Mother/Father: “It’s snowing. AGAIN. The kids are off from school. AGAIN. It’s absolutely freezing out there. Seriously, this is the worst winter EVER!”
Me: “Bummer. But I asked, ‘what’s neeeewwww?'”
Same old, same old. I miss the talks we used to have about currents events, movies, what we’re making for dinner, what we ate for lunch. Interesting, riveting stuff. Instead, it’s all blizzard all the time! Thankfully, winter doesn’t last forever and they’ll all be able to get back to business before we know it. Easy for me to say, I’m sure.
But if I were in the middle of a polar vortex, I would quickly buy a one-way ticket to L.A. I would make super-warming foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can control the thermal nature of what we eat. And I say, heat me up! High on my list would be this Moroccan chicken with dates which I taught in my classes last February. I know it seems like there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but half of them are spices, all of which are warming to the body, and anti-inflammatory, too. These spices, including ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and a pinch of cayenne are also quite flavorful and make this otherwise simple chicken dish, something very special. There’s also a little bit of sweetness from the cinnamon and from halved dates which rank as one of my favorite foods on the planet. A little earthy, a little sweet, a touch spicy and a little tart — it’s one of my favorite chicken recipes!
In these images, and for dinner last night, I served this with an apricot couscous (I’ll post the recipe next week.) This will have a very tasty, but brothy sauce which just begs for something to sop it up. Couscous, which is pretty dry, is the perfect side dish. But you don’t need to make it with any seasonings or herbs. Even plain would be just the right side for this dish. Otherwise, if you’re gluten-free, steamed rice, quinoa or millet would be amazing here. I also served it for dinner with simply sautéed Swiss chard, but check out this recipe for raw grated carrot and beet salad. That would be fabulous, too.
I have made this recipe in the slow cooker, as well. Please read the directions for how to adjust this recipe for the slow cooker. Both versions are amazing and will help warm up your core. At least until the next snowfall or tomorrow, or both, as the case might be!
3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts such as breasts (I like them split), thighs or drumsticks, seasoned with 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt when you get home from the market or brined for an hour (1/4 cup kosher salt + 2 cups water) EXCEPT if you use kosher chicken. See this post for how and why to brine chicken.
1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil or olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric (feel free to add more if you like it)
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 ½ cups chicken stock
5 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 dates, pitted and halved
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, if you like it
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and add to the pot in one layer. Do not overcrowd. Cook until browned on the underside, then turn over and browned on the other side, about 15 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet or platter and repeat with remaining chicken if there’s some still left to do.
Add onions and carrots to the pot and sauté until tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add cinnamon sticks, salt and remaining spices. Sauté about 1 minute, or until fragrant.
Add stock, 3 Tablespoons lemon juice and dates. Deglaze the pan by scraping the brown bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, add chicken pieces back to pot skin-side up and cover. Lower heat and simmer until chicken is completely cooked through, about 40-45 minutes. An instant-red thermometer should read 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.
Add lemon juice to pot and stir to combine. If sauce needs thickening, transfer chicken to a platter and simmer sauce until it is reduced. Sprinkle everything with cilantro and serve.
SLOW COOKER VERSION:
Use bone-in, skinLESS pieces of chicken Use a skillet to brown chicken, and sauté vegetables and spices. Add only ¾ cup of stock to the pan and the same amount of lemon juice as in the original recipe to deglaze the pan. Do not add the dates until 20 minutes before serving. Transfer the browned chicken, and the vegetable, spice, stock and lemon juice mixture to the slow cooker and cook covered on LOW for 7-8 hours or HIGH 4-5 hours. 20 minutes before serving, stir dates into the slow cooker. Add remaining lemon juice and garnish with cilantro, if desired.
Have you ever noticed that the best food images are usually of desserts? Every time I go on Tastespotting, it seems like half the photos are sweets. The irony is that I think desserts are the easiest things to make look and taste good. Throw together some sugar, butter and chocolate and it’s probably going to be delicious. Ok fine, I’m simplifying a bit, but I think I’ve tried more new dessert recipes with success than savory. Anything with the word “crisp,” “cobbler,” “crumble,” or “buckle” is going to be great. But chicken recipes don’t always provide the same guarantees, don’t you agree?
I also feel that way about dessert recipes using unrefined ingredients, especially in the sweetener department. Show me a chocolate cake using maple syrup and whole grain flour and you have my attention! It’s not so easy.
I recently made Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies for a large group meeting because they are perfect and it’s what everyone expects out of a brownie — that fudgy flavor and the flaky, crackly top. (Although how in the world she only gets 20 brownies out of a 12 x 18 pan is a mystery. I think I got close to 50.) Unfortunately, I can’t duplicate that texture with honey, coconut sugar or stevia. I am really committed to using ingredients that are less inflammatory and lower on the glycemic index than white flour and white sugar. Of course, like I ALWAYS say in my classes, that doesn’t mean higher quality sweeteners are “good” for you or even health supportive. Your body is just less offended by them. You should still consume desserts in moderation whether they are made with honey or with sugar.
My kids and my husband are always the best judges of my cooking because they are brutally honest and they still have a taste for junk. (People who eat health food 24/7 are much easier to please!) But what I’ve learned to do is just call it like it is — no sneaky business, no tricky semantics. These brownies aren’t like Ina’s, but you know what? They would satisfy any chocoholic’s craving any day. They’re super moist and fudgy with a rich chocolate flavor. But they’re sweetened with my two favorite sweeteners, dates and coconut sugar. I am very sensitive to refined sugars and these brownies don’t affect me at all! Plus, they’re made with gluten-free oat flour. Double awesome. But if you like cake-y brownies, sorry. This recipe is not what you’ve been waiting for.
I ate one of these brownies warm right out of the pan with some sliced strawberries to cut the sweetness a bit and thought it was fabulous. Although I wouldn’t argue with you if you wanted to top one with some ice cream. After a day or two, I pop any extras into the fridge and they are absolutely divine cold. I taught these brownies in a class last year and I remember making sure I gave all of them away before every class ended because I didn’t want to be left alone with them! But what you all want to know is — does Mr. Picky like these? TOTALLY! In fact, I told him these were gluten-free brownies with dates and he said, “I don’t even care!”
I think these are best cut into small bites. And if you have a mini-muffin pan, that would be a great way to go, too. With Valentine’s Day coming up, these fudgy brownies are perfect for all of your sweethearts!
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter or unrefined coconut oil (does infuse a hint of coconut)
8 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
10 pitted dates (buy the moistest ones you can find), about 1 cup
½ cup hot water
¾ cup coconut palm sugar (or cane sugar)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup GF oat flour
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
¾ teaspoon instant coffee powder (optional, but makes the brownies taste more chocolate-y)
Place butter in a large heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water; dip a pastry brush in the melted butter and use it to grease the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Add the chocolate to the melted butter and stir frequently until chocolate is melted. Remove bowl from heat; let cool about 10 minutes.
Place the dates and the hot water in a medium the bowl and allow to soak for at least 10 minutes while you prepare everything else.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two sides. Set aside.
Transfer the dates and water to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until a smooth paste forms. Add the palm sugar and process until smooth. Alternately you can do this in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment. However, the food processor will make the date paste much smoother.
Add the date-sugar mixture to the butter and chocolate mixture and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.
Stir in flour, salt, baking powder and instant coffee powder until just combined.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not wet. Do not overbake! Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. They taste best if they have been allowed to sit at least an hour.
Run a knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan. Pull on the edges of the parchment to lift brownies out of pan. Transfer to a cutting board; cut into 2-inch squares.
You can fold in ½ cup chopped or halved walnuts and/or ½ cup chocolate chips after the flour.